LETTER: Petition is ready. Are you, Angus?

Dear Mr Taylor,

We are writing to you today to not only inform you of the result of our petition but also express our deep disappointment with the way you have conducted yourself over the past few months.

When Hume Supports Marriage Equality began we made contact with your office to inform you of our activities. We made several other representations in the coming days, weeks and months.

Our hope was that you would work with us. You had no such intention. In fact, you saw us as a political inconvenience and have treated us with little short of contempt.

Not once have you offered to assist us. Not once have you contacted us to find out how our campaign is going. Not once have you shown even the most remote amount of interest in our point of view.

You glibly state that you are interested in what the 80 per cent of people that aren’t activists think. To that point we say this:

Firstly, we are not activists. We are your constituents! We are the people you are paid to represent! Yes we are people with strongly held views but we don’t ever recall you stating that you wouldn’t meet with business people or farmers or anybody with a financial stake in public policy. Then why disenfranchise us?

Secondly, and more importantly, we went out with one goal: to point out the support that existed in mainstream Hume. We wanted to prove to you that the 80pc did support Marriage Equality.

Not only did 30 local business owners support our business campaign, but more than 1300 people signed our petition! More than 100 people signed it additionally online!

We walked up and down the streets of some of Hume’s major centres talking to people and what we found was that the majority of people not only supported Marriage Equality but also had a story to tell. They had somebody in their family that was gay or a friend that had been in a long term monogamous relationship. Mostly though, we heard people ask: “Why not do it? Who cares? They should’ve done it years ago”.

We did what you refused to do. We consulted with your constituents. Mr Taylor, you have ignored these people!

When the former Prime Minister brought the party room meeting forward to before the legislation had been introduced, it deprived us of the opportunity to present this to you on time. But as you can see, all of these people wanted you to advocate for a conscience vote or cross the floor.

Instead you’ve decided to alleviate yourself of the responsibility of actually demonstrating leadership or real representation by proposing – behind closed doors – the idea of a “public vote” (the same thing Tony Abbott was reportedly proposing to government ministers as a stall tactic).

You’re telling people that a public vote is the best way forward… But it isn’t!

A “public vote” is one of those terms like “extended warranty”, it sounds great until you read the fine print.

Here are six reasons a public vote is a bad idea:

1 – A public vote starts with the notion that everybody’s opinion is equal when making laws. While this sounds fantastic, it isn’t true! A public vote places no veracity on the weight of the arguments for or against. For example: if a public vote was called, a large portion of opponents would vote based upon their religious views. BUT section 116 of the constitution clearly states: “The Commonwealth will not make any law… imposing religious observance”! Moreover, while not everybody that is opposed to marriage equality is a bigot or a homophobe, some of them are! Do you really believe that the vote of somebody whose attitude is “F#@! the bloody poofters” should be considered when making our laws?

2 – The way the question is worded will help determine the result. Any plebiscite or referendum is open for manipulation and deception. For example, when the Republic Referendum was held in 1999, John Howard successfully managed to divide the yes vote by giving republicans an unpopular model of presidential appointment. If a government were so inclined they could attempt to do the same on marriage equality.

3 – If the public vote takes the form of a plebiscite it will not only have no statutory authority but it actually leaves far more questions unanswered. For example, will MPs vote based on the overall consensus of the nation or just their constituency? If it is the latter, we could see these reforms voted down on a technicality despite a majority of Australians supporting them. Voting at a plebiscite is also non-compulsory, so if it is held as a stand alone vote it risks delivering a false result. From day one your “get out of jail free card” has been this notion that you can’t do anything because you don’t know what every single person in Hume thinks, but a plebiscite won’t resolve that. It will likely only draw out the people that feel passionately on either side of the debate. Most of the “who cares vote”, which would vote in favour, won’t be counted.

4 – If the public vote takes the form of a referendum, it is unlikely to succeed. In Australia’s history we have had 44 referendums, only eight have ever succeeded. More to the point, none have ever succeeded without the support of both the state and federal governments. In order for a referendum to get up, you need a double majority, that is to say you need both a majority of electors and a majority of states. Historically, it is impossible to achieve that while a divided government um and ah about whether or not the reform is a good idea.

5 – A public vote isn’t necessary! It doesn’t deliver any insight that couldn’t be achieved by simply consulting with your constituency. Independent polling is cheaper. Knocking on doors is FREE!

6 – A stand alone public vote will cost the Australian taxpayers $158m! That’s a hefty price to pay because MPs – like yourself – are either too apathetic to consult with their constituents or lack the spinal fortitude to take a stand!

On July 28, you wrote an opinion piece for The Australian where you called on state governments to “rein in massive spending growth, particularly in health and education”.

However, in your own seat of Hume, in the city of Goulburn, we have mental health workers being put at risk due to understaffing; we have maximum security prisoners escaping from our jail because a guard tower was unmanned; we have public schools with oversized classes and ageing resources; two homeless shelters that were closed due to a lack of funding; nurses that have been screaming out for five years for the same staffing ratios as city nurses; and a crumbling hospital that we supposedly can’t afford to replace…

In The Australian you wrote: “It is quite clear the states still believe there’s a pot of money under the commonwealth rainbow…”

Well guess what… We just found $158m of it!

Malcolm Turnbull keeps saying that while this farce will cost more than MPs doing their jobs, “there is no denying it is thoroughly democratic”… But it’s not.

Democracy isn’t about one group deciding whether or not another group are entitled to equal rights. Everybody is entitled to equal rights, that’s why they’re called equal rights!

With our new Prime Minister publicly committing to greater consultation, we hope you will do the same.

Yours sincerely,

Hume Supports Marriage Equality

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